Joseph Raz

by Harry on May 4, 2022

I got a text from one of my graduate students yesterday:

You must have heard that Joseph Raz has died. Very sad. I don’t remember if I told you but I corresponded with him in December. I couldn’t believe he responded to me (a nobody) and he was very kind.

Here’s another story. There used to be two bus routes between Oxford and London, the X90, and the Oxford Tube (run by Stagecoach, in turn owned by Brian Souter, a prominent funder of the campaign for Section 28). During the period 2000-2002 I lived in Oxford but taught in London; one of my PhD students was a politically conservative, and gay, man, who also lived in Oxford and with whom, I think he’d agree, I had a rather prickly relationship at first. Like me, he used whichever bus was more convenient until, one day, he told me that he wasn’t using the Tube any more. I asked why and he said that he was standing at a bustop with Joseph Raz the previous day, and he noticed that Raz (who he recognized from having seen him give a lecture once) let the Oxford Tube go past. My student asked him why, and Raz, who didn’t know my student at all, said, simply, that he always used the X90, however inconvenient, because he wouldn’t let Souter get hold of his money. It made a deep impression on my student, and Raz’s comment inadvertently underpinned a welcome rapprochement between us. Neither of us used the Oxford Tube after that.

I didn’t know Raz at all well though I am sure some of our readers here did. But I did have the gift of taking a class from him shortly after I became interested in political philosophy. He was visiting USC’s Law school, and held the class, which was attended by exactly 4 people, in his office. We read The Morality of Freedom, which was maybe 2 years old at the time. It is not written in a reader-friendly way (to understated the facts), and its a real struggle to read, but working through it with the author, chapter by chapter, repaid the effort many times over. His unfriendly prose was at odds with his clear, and insightful, communication in the our discussions, in which he would patiently correct our misunderstandings, and respectfully, and kindly, listen to and think through our own ideas. I, in particular, must have seemed very naive, having only just encountered the field, but he never gave any sign of being irritated by that. That experience influenced my intellectual development greatly, and whenever I am irritated by naive questions or comments, I remind myself how kindly, and encouragingly, Raz treated me (a nobody).

The Four-Day Week

by John Quiggin on May 4, 2022

I just got invited to put a short entry on the 4-day week in the 2nd edition of the Encyclopedia of HRM . It’s over the fold


Four Day Week

The five-day working week and the two-day weekend, have been standard for so long, it is hard for many to imagine anything different. But, as a normal way of working, it dates back only to the middle of the 20th century. Before that, Saturday was a normal working day in Western countries and only Sunday, the Christian Sabbath, was normally taken as a day of rest.

The advent of the weekend, and the associated standard workweek of 35 to 40 hours was the culmination of a long series of reductions in working hours from the peak, of 70 hours or more reached in the early 19th century. At the time, it was expected that these reductions would continue, as technological progress reduced the labour input needed to produce any given volume of output.

Reductions in annual hours, through increases in vacation time and other forms of leave continued during the middle decades of the 20th century,. However, with the increase in the bargaining power of employers which began with the neoliberal ‘counter-revolution’ in the 1970s, progress towards reduced working hours halted and was, in many cases, reversed.

The shock of the pandemic has created conditions for a resurgence of interest in reduced working hours and, particularly, the idea of a four-day week. The pandemic exacerbated existing disillusionment with working arrangements, and showed that alternatives are possible. As a result, a phase of experimentation has begun.

Proposals for a four-day week differ regarding the associated change in working hours. At one extreme, some proposals leave weekly hours unchanged, compressing five days’ work into four. At the other, daily working hours are unchanged, and the number of hours in the standard working week is reduced by 20 per cent.

It’s also necessary to consider whether a four-day week should take the form of a three-day weekend, extended to include Mondays (or perhaps Fridays). One alternative is an extension the rostered day off prevailing in some parts of the building industry, where all workers have one day off each fortnight, but the number rostered on any given day is constant. Another option, drawing on the experience of the pandemic would be a core 3-day week (Tuesday to Thursday) with workers having either Friday or Monday off.

One way or another it seems that the four-day week is now firmly on the policy agenda.

John Quiggin

References and selected further readings

Quiggin, J. (2022), ‘There’s never been a better time for Australia to embrace the 4-day week’, The Conversation, 14 February https://theconversation.com/theres-never-been-a-better-time-for-australia-to-embrace-the-4-day-week-176374,

Schor, J. (1993) The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, Basic Books,